Tuesday, August 31, 2010

3 Chinas, 1 Long Day

So, the last day in Beijing was quite the experience. I was tired on a level that is on par with any given architecture finals week. In it I got to experience three different stages of China -

Dynastic - The Forbidden City

20th Century - The Tian'anmen Square Flag Raising

Modern - Clubbing in Beijing

- while also taking the aforementioned 24 hour long train ride. Whoo boy...

So the day portion was spent in class like any other day while I was in Beijing. In the afternoon, the kids all did a talent show in which each class performed a small English skit. Our juniors did "I'm a Little Teacup" flawlessly. That evening, we all gathered together for a farewell banquet in which we recieved out TEFL Certificates, stating officially that we were teachers! It then came around that in a few hours everyone was going out to a club in Beijing, and I knew I couldn't miss it. I had to see what it would be like.

For the last few days we had been discussing going to Tian'anmen Square to see the flag raising, and as we all sat around drinking pijiu it came up again. This was the last chance I would probably ever have in my life to see something like this, and I wasn't about to let something like sleep get in my way. We decided before leaving that we would do it. 4:15 AM wake up call, here I come.

We went out to a set of twin clubs in Beijing called Mix and Vic's. I never even made it over to Vic's, but I had more than enough insanity at Mix to keep me satisfied. There were hundreds of dressed up Chinese people all pulsing under flashing, jumping lights. The girls all had on very skimpy outfits, while the guys ranged all the way up to some in suits. Foam and bubbles periodically fell from the ceiling, and the DJ shouted to the crowd in Chinese. By 1 AM, my head was pounding and we took off.

The cab ride back got us to the hotel by about 2, and I realized sleep was not going to happen. I still had to pack my bags to get on the train that afternoon because we would have no time once we left in the morning, and I had to be in the hotel lobby by 4:15 AM. I slept about 30 minutes, which proved to be more of a mistake than just staying up.

The Great Hall of the People, Tian'anmen Square
3:45 AM. "Beep Beep...." I staggered down to the hotel lobby and met Carrie, Matt, and Colin to grab a taxi. The cab was super expensive due to the far drive from Bei Da and night prices charged by the driver, but it was worth it. The Tian'anmen Square Flag Raising happens every morning at exactly dawn, and is attended by thousands of Chinese from all across the country. On this clear Tuesday morning, it happened to be at exactly 5:28 AM. We got to Tian'anmen around 5:00, and I was instantly amazed at the crowd of people. Tour busses were parked on every slot of free space, and flag waving tour guides gathered up thier flocks of people. These people had traveled far distances just to see this event. As we approached Tian'anmen Square, I was blown away by its true size. I had seen it earlier in the week, but it was night time and in the Beijing smog I couldn't even see to the other side. The police had completely cleared the area closest to the Forbidden City, where the flagpole stood. The crowd pressed up against the barrier, desperately trying to catch a glimpse of what would soon take place.

The Chinese police force waiting before the flag raising.

As it got lighter, the procession began as military members marched forth from the entrance to the Forbidden City. They marched out to the flagpole and performed some military formations, and then began raising the flag. Flashes from cameras went off everywhere. As the flag slowly raised, the Chinese national anthem played across the square. I remember seeing a little girl on her father's shoulders right behind me waving a small Chinese flag and singing along. After it ended, most of the Chinese instantly bolted for The Mausoleum of Chairman Mao, to wait in line to see his preserved body. We made a bee-line for the metro, to get back to the hotel in time to catch the bus with everyone back to the Forbidden City.

Me, really damn tired.

The Forbidden City was truly overwhelming. I walked through portal after portal, only to find another massive courtyard in front of me. The buildings were incredibly lavish, with carved dragons and bright colors adorning them all. While wandering, we came across the actual room where dynastic China ended. It was where the last dynastic ruler of China resigned power to what became the unified Republic of China. Sadly, Chinese history is where I probably have the least knowledge, and so as impressive as it all was, I'm sure I would have had an even greater impression if I knew more about what I was looking at. That, and by this point I was a walking zombie.

After a short lunch, we traveled back to the hotel just to get on another bus and then the impossibly long train ride. By that night, when I finally laid down on the train to go to sleep at 11:00 PM, my brain had been thoroughly fried. When i woke up, we were crossing the Yangtze River and crossing into a totally new part of China.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you got to see the flag raising. That was by far the coolest thing I did in China, and I could only get one person to go with me. Did you get stared at? When we went, everyone stared at us, and a bunch of people got pictures with us. Being a Westerner in Beijing is like being a celebrity. We heard that the largest group of tourists in China is Chinese people, not outsiders. Most of the people you saw there were probably from other parts of China, not Beijing residents. The sheer scale of that event is just powerful.